300 odd kms from Salento to Bogota, surely that won’t take longer than 4h? Wrong. Over 9h of twists and turns up the Andes, whist applauding / cursing at the drivers’ abilities to overtake any vehicle at any given moment, and we finally reached the capital of Colombia. But before getting to this rugged city we spent 2 days in what’s know as the core of the country’s coffee region – Salento.
Our days here can be summed up by 5 key facts / events:
1) Our accomodation
2) The coffee plantation tour
3) Hiking the Valley of Cocora
4) Trout eating
1) Our accommodation was a little bit, hmm, rustic. We’d read good thing about Don Eduardo’s coffee tour so decided to stay in their ‘finca’ (farm house by their plantation) which had amazing views over the valley. The booking process was however not very straightforward but we eventually found their email and managed to get the ball rolling. We got to Salento in the evening and in no time saw a signpost for our temporary home. I couldn’t see the gorgous views and the building didn’t quite resemble the bamboo structure we’d seen online. “Oh well” I thought “it must be cos it’s night time and dark”. Wrong again. Our booking lead us to the hostel which is linked to the finca, not to the finca itself. So our hostel – Plantation House – turned out to be a little rough at the edges and unkempt but, hey, after all we’re in the countryside and on a budget, so we sucked it up (after Annalie made me kill about 3 spiders and 2 moths).
2) The good thing about staying at the Plantation House is that we got their coffee tour for 5,000 colombian pesos instead of 30,000 (£1.25 instead of £7.50), and I must say it was pretty neat. Lead by the owner himself, Australian-born Tim (and one of his dogs Bonnnie), we learned bucket loads. He gave us great insight into the business of coffee, his own farm and the challenges he’s been facing, and guided us through all of the 25 stages for growing and producing coffee, all ending nicely with us roasting some coffee and drinking a very good home brew. A few fun facts for you:
– 1/3 of all the world’s coffee comes from Brazil. Colombia is 4th after Vietnam and Indonesia.
– Coffee grown in Salento is high mountain coffee (which is meant to be the best, obviously)
– The most expensive coffee around comes from Panama and costs 20 bucks a cup. Weirdly, it’s called Geisha
– There are 2 main types of coffee: Robusta (less taste, more caffeine) and Arabica (more taste, less caffeine). Colombia produces the latter
– There are over 300,000 coffee farms in the country
3) Cocora Valley. As we expected this region is amazing for walks and hikes, and this valley is renowned for it. Cocora was the name of a Quimbaian indigenous Princess and means ‘star of the water’, and this is the very name that was given to the huge waterfall near the valley. This place is also known for some incredibly tall palm trees that stand out from afar thanks to their 65mts in height. We got to to the valley by Jeep, set off on our walk and in 45 minutes got to the entrance of a forest where we were soon welcomed by the sound of fresh springs and gentle streams. We decided to go off the beaten track to find them and were in luck: an amazing mini waterfall with gorgeous pools of water nestled in between trees and rocks lay before us. We promptly put our bikinis on to go for a dip but little did we know the water was ice cold! Our toes paddled for about 30 seconds before we plonked ourselves on a rock to enjoy the scenery instead of catching hypothermia. The entire hike was about 4h30 minutes and lead us up winding paths, across rickety bridges straight out of the jungle book, and all the way up to a humming bird park. We were too tired to head to the very top to see the main waterfall so headed back down to catch our Jeep back.
3) Ohhh the trout! The best two meals we’ve had in Colombia have been in Salento and both were trout. Absolutely stunning. There are plenty of trout farms in the area and as such ‘trucha’ is on every menu, but we were particularly lucky to come across two restaurants that cooked it perfectly. We had it plain, with garlic, with garlic and lemon, and cooked in milk with garlic. The restaurant where we ate the latter two was called ‘La Fonda de Los Arrieros’ and we’d highly recommend. The only downside of this restaurant was one. You see, Salento has a shortage of water which means each premise is forced to scheduled water slots every day (i.e. planned showers and occasionally teeth brushing with bottled watered). Unfortunately, Annalie found out first hand that our beloved restaurant was in the midst of one of their no water slots when she got to the loo…..
5) Tejo. This is a fantastic yet challenging game we had the chance to play in one of the local bars; I’d describe it as an explosive evolution of boules. Yes, explosive. Imagine a 1mt x 1mt square filled with mud. In its center there’s a heavy metal ring (about the size of a softball) and on the edge of this ring you have a few small white triangles that are filled with some form of explosive (kind of like kiddy fireworks). The aim is to throw a heavy metal object called tejo (about the size of a small apple) and for it to reach the center of the ring. And if you also hit the explosives, all the better. What’s mental about this game is that professionals throw the tejo from a massive distance of about 20-25mt! To give put this in perspective, we failed at 3mt! A game of great hand-eye coordination and aim which Annalie picked up quite quickly as she kicked my butt 2 games straight. I did however get a cheeky bullseye which, as you can see, was rather satisfying 😉
Ciao for now! X